I met him this summer.
I fell in love with him this summer.
I am in love with him.
I knew that I was in love with Sean 4 weeks ago today, when my best friend's sister called me to say that Rory had been in an accident, and had hours left to live, and could I get to the hospital in time to say goodbye.
I was numb. I didn't believe it. Sean drove me to the hospital because I couldn't even get my fingers to hold a key. I really believed that it might be a prank. Even when the nurse confirmed that she was in the ICU, I didn't feel it in my bones.
I would have walked right by her bed had I not recognized the blubbering mass outside her room as her family. Her sister sat pale and still on one side of the bed, holding a hand that couldn't squeeze back.
The mess in the bed was not my best friend. It wasn't the girl who danced against me at the club, who clinked my glass before dinner, rubbed my back when I was sad, left dirty texts on my cell phone, borrowed my shoes, craved my mixed CDs. It wasn't just that she was unrecognizable, though she was. Completely. What was left of her face was swollen, purple, gaping, raw. The rest of her was simply mangled. Mostly, though, it was the emptiness of her. My Rory was gone, and I knew it even as I stroked her bloodied hair and held her limp, unfeeling hand.
Bleeding internally, her organs had already started to shut down. A pump emptied black blood from her stomach. Tubes forced her to breathe, because she would not have on her own. Her parents and grand parents had gathered to make their peace, and they made room for me, gave me the honoured seat by her side, and told me the stories that Rory had told them. They told me how much she had loved me. In their own grief, they consoled me. It took hours for her heart to stop, the longest hours that I've ever lived, and the last that she ever would.
He wouldn't go home, he wouldn't leave me. When I walked out of her room that first time, as the shock had begun to set in and the waves of grief and loss and anger and confusion had start to hit, he was exactly as I had left him, and he took me in his arms and held me until I soaked his shirt right through.
I felt like I had been fighting it for a while. I was resistant. I wasn't even sure if love would ever find me again. I'd had it once, and it expired, and maybe that was it for me. I wasn't looking for it, and didn't expect to find it. But I'd been feeling familiar twinges and wasn't entirely sure how I felt about it - whether I was ready, whether I could admit it, whether it was real.
But that night, that awful, awful night, I knew.
And it's hard to say that.
It should be impossible to feel your heart expanding even as it's contracting.
Today I was in a store where I'd brought Rory just a few months ago, after she broke up with her fiance. I'd treated us both to pink sundresses that we wore to drink matching drinks on sunny days. That dress made her feel beautiful.
Mine is in my closet; hers is under ground.
I'm glad I didn't know then what I know now.
The past 4 weeks have been hell. Sometimes I go a couple of days between cries, and sometimes I'm lucky if it's a couple of hours. She would have turned 30 last week, but she didn't.
The past 4 weeks have also been beautiful. Sean is thoughtful and tender and he's good at knowing when I need quiet and when I need to be lectured on the brilliance of Randy Moss (actually, on second thought, note to Sean: never). He makes me laugh, often without trying, and he does this adorable squiggly thing with his eyebrows that he's not even aware of but that can make me melt. He sings wretchedly, and often, especially bad 80s tunes and country songs that he makes up.
And though he never met her (which kills me with regret, every fucking day), he tells me that he knows her, through me. Through the stories that he lets me tell and the photos and the memories and the tears.
A friend of the family had a baby recently, and 2 days later her father dropped dead of a heart attack. I don't like this cliche about life giving and life taking away. I don't think Sean is a replacement for Rory. A good thing happened, and a bad thing happened. They exist simultaneously, even if it seems incongruous. I walked out of that hospital room, shattered but alive. My life goes on, love & happiness, loss & grief, all of it together in a jumble that's hard to decipher sometimes. I'm still trying to figure it out. And I'm lucky. Not just because I have Sean, but because for a time, I had Rory.